The policies of economic liberalization, privatization and globalization (LPG), detached in India in the 1990s, threw up huge market opportunities for savvy business people who saw untapped opportunities in several sectors such as Telecom, Banking, Retail and Automobiles. Combined with de-licensing, abolition of allowances and the winding up of the bureaucracy, it released entrepreneurial energies from Indian and foreign companies eager to take part in the huge Indian consumer pie.
Naturally, all of this caused a significant increase in the job created by India, which required qualified managers for their operations. Historically, the talent pool of professionally qualified leaders in India has been quite limited, which has led to a huge demand – supply match. Given the situation, qualified executives come at a premium, resulting in intense competition and fat-pay packages for freshly minted MBAs.
However, getting into these Ivy League institutes is not easy, as the Common Admission Test (CAT) is a highly-contested entry test for admission to MBA courses at premier management institutes, including the 13 Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) ). The number of test takers has risen to 2.25 lakh, with the rising popularity of management education thanks to the booming business growth.
CAT had been fairly unstructured until 2005, when it continued to experiment with its style over the years. The number of test questions, the weights and the pattern changed quite often. But as the test began to accommodate non-IIM institutes in the CAT club, more structure and predictability began to creep in, allowing test takers to know about it. In its latest avatar, CAT assesses test takers on their skills in quantitative ability, data analysis, logical reasoning and verbal ability.
Despite many popular CAT study material guides claiming to be your guide to success, there is a serious lack of a one-stop, reliable companion in print. Many CAT study material guides boast good material in a particular field, e.g. Quantitative ability but may be handicapped by a less than average part of Verbal Ability. As a matter of practice, a test taker should ideally avoid relying on a single CAT study material guide. Instead, they would be asked to consult different sources to get the best possible CAT study material in different test areas.
CAT Study Material Tips
A. Quantitative ability and data analysis
You can start with the Getting-Back-to-Basics approach, ie. Remember tables (Practice reciting from 10-20 in 1 minute), squares (up to 30) and dice (up to 15). Practice doing all the calculations mentally as they save you a lot of valuable time in the test.
Review your basics from school math books for grades 6-10, and be sure to address the questions there. Most CAT questions are only organized around these mathematical concepts.
Try to observe and understand the tables, pie charts, bar charts and other data often published in newspapers. Notice trends and try to derive valid, logical conclusions regarding the observed trends. The data analysis questions do not require you to calculate the exact answers. Working with Decimal-to-Fraction conversions and vice versa can help you cultivate better metrics and approximations.
B. Verbal ability and logical reasoning
This section includes reading comprehension questions (3 passages-10 questions), critical reasoning, sentence correction, word usage, and sentence rearrangement. At an overall level, it evaluates your reading, comprehension and linguistic reasoning skills. Therefore, cultivating effective reading habits will catalyze your CAT verbal ability for preparation.
When preparing for CAT Verbal Ability, start reading good books on different genres (economics, science, philosophy, biographies, literature, arts and humanities), newspapers, and journals. Try to cultivate different reading habits by changing the topic each week. As it requires you to be familiar with different writing styles, it makes sense to have eclectic coverage in terms of author style, language and subject matter. Look up a standard dictionary to learn the meaning and application of the new words you encounter, and read these lines again to understand their meaning completely. Various memory aids like attachment and pictures can help you learn vocabulary better and faster.
Read a national daily, and always read its editorial pages. Try to understand how a given word can be used in different ways, something that is tested here. Practicing a good grammar book can hone your grammar skills, then integrated into the CAT verbal ability of preparation. If your reading is huge and diverse and you stick to the plan carefully, you will find this part as a cake. Let’s reinforce a key idea: A good CAT Verbal Ability score is almost impossible without good reading habits.
Working with puzzles can help you gain exposure and develop a logical inflection, so crucial to logical reasoning. Intensive practice is key as it will help you develop speed, so important for good performance.